The decision to apply for a new top level domain (new gTLD) is a strategic one – would owning and operating your own registry support your brand positioning, offer stronger rights protection, or present a new commercial opportunity? Do the practical benefits of security outweigh the risks? Can the costs be justified?
Valideus helps brand owners and communities to understand the new gTLD process and assess the impact of gTLD liberalisation, evaluate the opportunity and ensure there is an understanding of the implications of running a gTLD registry.
As the ICANN community works on establishing the policies and procedures for round 2 of the new gTLDs, or as ICANN calls it subsequent procedures, now is the time for brands to take stock and decide whether a new gTLD is right for them. A Valideus feasibility assessment can help establish whether the round two opportunity is right for you.
Valideus feasibility assessments feature educational materials, interviews with key stakeholders, interactive workshops, cost and risk analysis, review meetings and a detailed report with recommendations. A feasibility assessment will have one of three main outcomes:
- Apply in the Round Two: owning your own registry is a strong strategic fit; it is commercially viable; it is required to defend trademarks or market share; competitor activity means that you cannot afford to be left behind; you can benefit from security enhancements.
- Apply in a future round: owning your own registry could offer some commercial advantage, but your organisation is not positioned to exploit the new gTLD opportunity yet, or it is simply not a priority.
- Do not apply: owning a registry is not a strategic or operational fit, is too complex or costly, or is unlikely to be commercially successful.
We will ensure that you understand the impact of contracting with ICANN, and the investment requirements across a 10-year period. We were commissioned to deliver many feasibility reports to first-round applicants. We recommended that 10 interested parties did not apply. This bears testament to our process, which covers:
- The strategic opportunity
- Competitor analysis
- Technical requirements
- Financial requirements
- Operational requirements
- Legal requirements
- Impacts of the ICANN application process
- Return on investment
- Rights protection
- The governance framework
- How to manage the application process
- Use cases
The strategic opportunity
Is owning your own top level domain a strategic fit for your organisation? Will it enhance your brand on the internet? Does it present a new commercial opportunity? What will it mean when you and / or your competitors leave .com behind and appear directly in a browser as .brand?
What is the competitive landscape? Which companies applied in the first round from your sector? Who else might apply in the second round from your sector? Who might object to your choice of domain character string? What if your competitors succeed in a bid and you are left behind?
What are the technical requirements to run a registry and do you have the capability for this? Will you need to outsource the running of the registry back-end? If so, to whom? Do you have DNS knowledge in-house?
ICANN requires you to submit a Business and Operating Plan detailing technical capabilities, projected demand, cash flow forecasts and three year budgets. We can help you to write this business plan, or review and validate your own plan.
What are the staffing requirements of operating your own domain registry? What is the ideal composition of your project team for the application process, and what staffing levels and structure are required to launch, operate (and, for open brand registries, to market and sell) your domain?
ICANN contracts under Californian State Law. Does this suit you? Could there be Anti-Trust issues if you apply for a generic term? Do you incorporate a new vehicle to hold your registry? Which jurisdiction should you base your registry operations in? Under what circumstances might ICANN re-delegate your domain?
The start date for the ICANN second round process has not yet been announced. Are you prepared for when it is? Are you aware of the time required to produce the necessary documentation? We can help you prepare to be ready for each stage.
Impacts of the ICANN application process
All owners of new domains are required to meet extensive ICANN compliance and reporting requirements – what are these? How do they form part of your overall risk management strategy for operating your own domain? How could ICANN consensus policies impact your registry?
What are the risks of you applying for your own TLD? How might applying for an open generic string affect your business? Could your own registry become a trusted zone for your clients? What are the benefits of moving away from a third-party registry? Is the concept of a "walled garden" viable or desirable?
Return on investment
Have you built a return on investment model? Have you considered the implications of applying for an open string vs. a .BRAND? We can advise you on marketing options, especially during the launch phase when you need to find the right balance between reserved names, a Sunrise scheme, premium name auctions and landrush allocations. We have excellent relations with several ICANN accredited registrars that can be your sales channel if you are planning an Open Brand Registry. If you prefer a closed brand registry, as most of our clients do, we have strategies to help you allocate domains to your staff, your licensees, distributors and other associated contacts at very little additional cost and we will work through models to help show the financial benefits to you.
How will you protect the rights of others in your registry? What pre-launch rights mechanism best suit your model of registry? How can you inspire trust and consumer confidence in your string? Is it possible to position your registry so that infringement elsewhere on the web is reduced?
The governance framework
Have you considered issues of governance for your TLD? Will you operate it within your existing business, or as a separate entity? Domains that correspond to cities, geo-political regions and distinct cultural groups should be submitted as a geographic application, supported with letters of endorsement from local government. They must demonstrate the involvement of stakeholders from the community in the governance and oversight of registry operations. How do you meet these requirements and secure the necessary political support?
How to manage the application process
What are the costs and resource implications of the application process? How do you best interpret ICANN’s policies and processes? What are the evaluation requirements and scoring mechanism for applications? How will you address potential disputes or contention with third parties? What is the best strategy to adopt if you face an auction?
Have you considered the potential use cases for your registry? How can a .BRAND domain build trust in your online presence, signaling official affiliate and partner channels? Is it essential that you own a gTLD that corresponds exactly to your brand name or are there other options? What is the best strategy if you are a brand owning company with hundreds of marks, many in local scripts? Owning a gTLD affords you unlimited second-level keyword registrations. How can such keyword registrations bolster your SEO efforts, support search engine marketing (pay-per click, adwords), online and offline advertising, and social media engagement and communications?